June 2021: My Conference Arrangements Committee Report

We had a Labour Conference Arrangements Committee meeting yesterday and here’s what happened, from my perspective, reports Seema Chandwani

Today’s CAC meeting focused on the Constitutional Amendments (rule changes), which is my favourite meeting. We made decisions on which ones were ruled in and which were sadly not.

How it works:

• The Governance and Legal Unit compile all of the Constitutional Amendments so those that duplicate motions are ruled on together.

• In the papers they give us one of three recommendations:

1. Rule In

2. Rule Out

3. Refer to NEC as the issue is ‘organisational’

• Where the recommendation is to ‘Rule Out’, then we are given an explanation why.

• The CAC then make the final decision on each Constitutional Amendment.

We only rule things out of order which fit the criteria:

• It forfeits under the 3 year rule, i.e. it has already been debated and voted upon at Conference in the past 3 years.

• It attempts to change multiple rules.

• It is a clear rule change and not a policy motion.

We do not make judgements on whether we agree with the Constitutional Amendment. Some of you may recall, a few years ago the CAC agreed to a Constitutional Amendment that wanted to abolish the CAC. Obviously we did not agree with the actual content; however, it did not hit the criteria to rule it out, so was ruled in.

We’re a pretty unbiased bunch!

Today most Constitutional Amendments were recommended to be ‘Ruled In’. However, there were a small handful that required additional discussion, namely:

• Vote on the General Secretary: It was felt as this was already a Constitutional Amendment we ‘Ruled In’ in 2018 for the 2019 Conference (but was withdrawn by the proposer), it would be inconsistent to rule it out a few years later given our criteria as the CAC has not changed.

• Conference Triggering Leadership Elections: It was felt that this had the ‘same primary purpose’ (deciding how the how Leadership challenges are made) of a Constitutional Amendment in 2017, so this fell foul of the 3 year rule (note: it came to Conference in 2018 which is when the 3 year clock started, so it can come back in 2022). Although I cannot say how everyone voted, I can state that I voted to ‘rule in’ as it did not seek to overturn the 2017/18 decision, but add to it. It was ‘ruled out’.

• Labour Campaign for Clean Money: It was felt that this was a valid Constitutional Amendment, even though we all had personal opinions, and I personally felt that the reasons against it were valid. However, it was not our role to vote on the actual content of the rule change, but to agree if it was in order based upon our criteria, which could not take into account our personal views on the subject. Conference should have the debate, should outline the pros and cons, and it is up to delegates to decide.

• PLP Reporting to Conference, including the Chief Whip’s Report: There was a discussion on whether this was an organisational matter that should be referred to the NEC. The main concern was around disciplinary cases.

After a robust debate, I voted to ‘rule in’ as everything in the rule book is subject to a Constitutional Amendment, and there are several parts of the rule book (a whole chapter) which cover disciplinary processes and actions. There was nothing that restricted submission of Constitutional Amendments on disciplinary matters. In fact the rulebook is clear that CLPs which conduct disciplinary cases must take their actions to a General Committee/All Members Meeting and be subject to a vote on further action. It cannot be an ‘organisational matter’ when there are whole parts of the rule-book covering it!

Although I cannot disclose how others voted, it was ruled in.

Free Speech: This was about removing restrictions on what can be discussed in meetings, and requesting that the NEC and General Secretary cannot issue ‘guidance or instruction’ on what cannot be discussed. After a robust discussion, I argued that there had been an increase in ‘guidance’ to CLPs which have no basis in the rulebook. Despite this, it led to 200+ CLP members, especially Officers being suspended for ‘allowing’ a debate, yet again there is nothing in the rulebook where this is against the rules.

It was my feeling that some Chairs and Secretaries were put in a very bad situation where they were suspended because they ran the meeting according to the rulebook, but not by ‘guidance’ issued which had no foundation in the rulebook. As a former CLP Secretary, I can say that if a Chair ruled a motion out of order, the meeting can vote against the Chair as per our standing orders, so CLP officers are caught in a trap – this is no way to treat members of our party who volunteer their time.

For me the rulebook is our contract, and no-one should be suspended for something not in the rulebook, unless it’s an illegal act.

That said, I am having a rant – I voted to rule it in as it did not forfeit under the 3 year rule. It was about a rule (which is the purpose of a rulebook!) and it only sought to amend one rule.

Although I cannot state how others voted, it was ruled in.

Any Other Business

– Conference Accommodation: I raised the concerns raised with me around the difficulties in obtaining accommodation.

– Carer Support Fund: I raised the concerns raised with me about accessing the NEC fund for carers needing to attend to help a delegate with a disability.

Cllr Seema Chandwani is the Cabinet Member for Transformation and Public Realm Investment for Haringey Council and a member of Labour’s Conference Arrangements Committee.

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